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Spann described as a hero

Johnny Spann in a family photo: His father called him "a cherished son, ... an amazing brother, a devoted father and a loving husband."  

(CNN) -- Johnny Micheal "Mike" Spann, the first American to die in combat in the war against terrorism, had served in the Central Intelligence Agency since 1999.

Spann, 32, was killed Sunday during an uprising of Taliban prisoners at a compound in Mazar-e Sharif. U.S. officials said Spann was in the compound gathering intelligence from prisoners when he died.

In a statement Wednesday, CIA Director George Tenent described Spann as an American hero who was "where he wanted to be, on the front lines serving his country."

His father, Johnny Spann, said his son was a loyal and patriotic American and loved his country very much.

He said his son knew as a teen-ager in Winfield, Alabama, that he wanted to serve his country, either in the CIA or the FBI.

Spann earned a degree in criminal justice/law enforcement from Auburn University in 1992 and joined the Marine Corps officers training program.

"Knowing Mike, it doesn't surprise me that he found a way to get in the middle of the fight," said Marine Maj. Mike Mullins, who was Spann's commanding officer on Okinawa from 1994 to 1995.

"He was very serious, and his main concern was that his Marines were prepared to go to battle. That's the kind of guy he was. He told you straight, and stuck to it. He was focused on the mission," Mullins said.

Spann's father said that when his son left the Marines after eight years, he joined the CIA because he "felt that he would be able to make the world a better place to live in."

"We recall him saying someone has got to do the things that no one else wants to do. That's exactly what he was doing in Afghanistan," Spann said.

He said he was very proud of his son and that it was "hard not to be able to brag about what your son does."

Spann lived in McLean, Virginia, and is survived by his wife, their two young daughters and infant son, two sisters and his parents.

"He was a cherished son, he was an amazing brother, a devoted father and a loving husband," Johnny Spann said.

"Our family wants the world to know that we are very proud of our son Mike and we consider him a hero."


• U.S. Central Intelligence Agency

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